More on the Potential Tax Implications of the NLRB Decision and the NCAA

by Greg Pollowitz

Via ESPN (And the Keith Olbermann interview isn’t bad):

Northwestern football players won the right to unionize on Wednesday, but the potential tax implications alone could immediately kill the idea.

Much of what was argued in the National Labor Relations Board testimony is in direct opposition to why scholarships aren’t being taxed today.

“It appears like the case brought forward by the players focused on things other than the potential tax implications,” said Garrett Higgins, a partner at O’Connor Davies in the firm’s Exempt Organization Tax and Advisory Services group. “The fact that the players were not considered employees in the past is essentially the reason why their scholarship or parts of it weren’t taxed before. The IRS may be able to make the argument that the scholarship is really payment for services, and therefore compensation, and is now taxable to the athlete.”

Taxable income has been defined in the courts, and by the IRS, as compensation received through services that resulted in a time commitment that required a certain number of hours per week. Higgins said the time commitment put forth by former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, and backed by the National College Players Association, that resulted in the NLRB qualifying the Northwestern players as employees could serve to be the exact reason that the IRS would say the players must pay taxes if they unionize.